From derelict to deluxe: historic mansion has two income streams

Heritage-listed Barwon Bank has been beautifully restored to its former glory. Picture:
Heritage-listed Barwon Bank has been beautifully restored to its former glory. Picture:

A heritage-listed Geelong mansion with a vineyard and attached function space is on the market, and the bluestone beauty already generates its own income.

Barwon Bank is set on 1.2ha of landscaped gardens and fronts the Barwon River in blue-ribbon Newtown.

The property includes an award-winning shiraz vineyard and a conservatory used as a function space for weddings and events.

Barwon Bank has been extensively renovated and restored. Picture:

Built between 1853 and 1856 for Geelong solicitor John Gregory, the colonial Regency-style bluestone mansion was described in its day as “the finest specimen of architecture in the western district”.

It was added to the Victorian Heritage Registry in 1977 as it was one of the few documented buildings designed by noted architect Thomas R Yabsley.

But this property hasn’t always been so grand. It had been left to ruin over many years before building designer Nick Iredell purchased it from the National Trust and Newtown Council for just $55,000 in 1990.

The two-storey home at that stage had no doors, windows, electricity, water, plumbing or stairs and the badly damaged slate roof needed to be repaired.  It took Mr Iredell 18 months to make the property habitable.

Barwon Bank had been left to the elements before Nick Iredell purchased it in 1990 Picture: Supplied/YouTube

With a price guide of $7.25- $7.6 million, the now-renovated property has 18 rooms and features marble fireplaces, decorative plasterwork, tessellated floors, high ceilings with ceiling roses and French doors opening out to landscaped gardens. There’s also a kitchen with commercial-grade cooking appliances.

Mr Iredell also added a tennis court, solar-heated pool, pool house with a spa and kitchenette, a gym, theatre room and self-contained guest quarters as well as the 130sqm conservatory used for weddings and other events.

Wine and wedding commercial opportunities

Barwon Bank’s shiraz was awarded first prize for shiraz of the year and the best-presented shiraz at the 2015 Geelong Wine Show. Picture: Buxton Newtown

Barwon Bank’s shiraz vineyard began commercial production 2o years ago.  The conservatory began operating as a weddings and functions space at around the same time.

Both assets were initially created to fund the property’s renovation works.

Barwon Bank now produces 240 bottles of shiraz each year and in 2017 the label’s 2015 Shiraz was named shiraz of the year and also won the prize for the best wine at the Geelong Wine Show.

The property hosts about 12 weddings a year on its grounds.

The 130sqm glass conservatory along with the landscaped gardens are often used for weddings and functions. Picture: Buxton Newtown

The combination of commercial and residential opportunities is drawing plenty of interest, according to agent and Buxton Newtown director Tom Butters.

However, as a highly unique property, Mr Butters said it was hard to predict who the buyer might be.

“We’ve got families interested who just want to live here and we’ve also had at least one wine buff who came through,” he explained.

“Or it could attract someone who has sold their farm and who now wants to be close to amenities while not wanting to sit right on top of the neighbour.

“But I wouldn’t be surprised if the property goes to a corporate person because this could be an amazing function centre.

“It’s sensational just standing out on the grass overlooking the vineyard and the house.”

Heritage-listing adds to elegance

The renovated bluestone mansion features marble fireplaces, tessellated floors and ceiling roses. Picture:

The property’s heritage listing hasn’t deterred buyers, partly because there are already plenty of heritage homes in Geelong, Mr Butters explained.

It also helps that Barwon Bank has already been fully renovated inside and out.

“Heritage listings can be really hard to deal with when a house is rundown and a lot of work needs to be done, but this home is in beautiful condition,” Mr Butters said.

The solar-heated pool comes with a pool house featuring a spa and kitchenette. Picture: Buxton Newtown

Dominic Romeo from Circa Heritage and Lifestyle Property Specialists added that the National Trust and state trusts along with local councils were now far less restrictive with changes owners wished to make to heritage-listed buildings.

“These buildings do have a level of protection but that’s not to say trusts and councils won’t let you do anything,” Mr Romeo said.

“With cosmetic changes, they’re now very open to painting, wallpapering and this type of thing.

“It’s a rare exception where a building is so important they want you to go back to the original colour scheme.

“It would have to be a very important, intact building for this high level of protection to occur.”

History blends wool and cricket

Barwon Bank could be used as a residential home or be turned into a corporate function centre. Picture: Buxton Newtown

The property’s past is linked to both cricket and wool, with former Australian international cricketer Ian Redpath’s grandfather establishing a wool mill on the site in 1934. The homestead attached to that venture is now known as Barwon Bank.

“It was a gentleman’s residence with a family renting two rooms downstairs,” Mr Iredell said.

“This family never went upstairs and in fact, no one went upstairs in the homestead until about 1946.

“But I think the real glamour of this property is it’s now been fully renovated and it’s been a family home for us and our three kids for 30 years.”